March 5, 2017

SCHULMAN | YouTube Stars Deserve Better

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The year 2016 was rough. It was particularly rough for Andrew Ucles. Who is that you ask? Think Bear Grylls, only legit. Bear Grylls fakes bear attacks and stays at motels during survival videos. Andrew Ucles spent 67 days in the Australian outback with some tools and a GoPro; he would actually attack a bear (although he hasn’t yet).

Andrew shares his wildman stunts on YouTube. His most popular video (my favorite) is called “How to catch a Kangaroo, disguised as an Emu”. The title says it all. Andrew grabs a kangaroo by the tail by disguising himself with an emu pelt. His unbelievable videos earned him a TV contract, but when a parasite from the Amazon weakened Andrew’s immune system, he spent four months hospitalized and the network got tired of waiting.

Knowing Andrew’s TV deal fell through is upsetting. Content creators on Youtube aren’t fairly compensated. Andrew Ucles deserves to be dead. Another video he made (also a favorite) is called “Catching Wild Rabbits using Snakes.” This is exactly what is sounds like. Andrew  flushes out a rabbit by nonchalantly grabbing a handful of venomous snakes without equipment and dropping them into its hole.

It’s time we compensated YouTube content creators fairly for the risks they take. There aren’t hard facts about YouTube compensation (although lots of YouTubers make videos about it). It seems every 100 views earns a cent — which is pretty bad considering Andrew Ucles only earned 1.5 million views for a video where he stuck his tongue into an ant nest like an echidna (“ANT ATTACK AND ECHIDNA”).

Some might say, we as a society shouldn’t encourage Andrew Ucles and other Youtubers to risk their lives for our entertainment. I think this is a mistake. In contrast to the facade of television and movies, the authenticity of Youtube is irresistibly refreshing. Nothing is more genuine than watching a grown man wearing a suit made of roadkill being pulverized by a hoard of bees after grabbing a chunk from their hive. If I needed to watch more ads, or pay a monthly premium like Spotify, to make sure Andrew was taken care of, I would.

I think YouTube and cable networks are to blame. YouTube purposely pits content creators against each other. It has actually modified its website to stop channels from mobilizing their fans’ support. It has no incentive to change its format to earn more revenue for its content creators. Cable networks have no incentive to encourage content creators like Andrew Ucles when people will settle for Bear Grylls.

In an ideal world, networks would work with YouTube on transitioning talent and overhauling traditional advertising structures.  The changes are inevitable. As YouTube grows, networks will improve their content and YouTube will better compensate its talent. Still, it would be nice if that happened sooner rather than later. Andrew Ucles shouldn’t have to wait for fair compensation. That’s this week’s schtick. Tune in alternating Mondays for my final semester.

 

Eric Schulman is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He may be reached at eschulman@cornellsun.com. Schulman’s Schtick appears alternate Mondays this semester.